Don’t take things personally. It is the second of the Four Agreements (if you haven’t read you should) and one that I did not fully understand until assuming my role as a step-parent to two amazing girls, 11 and 8.
To be clear, I am not married to their father, but by living in the same household with them, I take my commitment and impact on their lives very seriously and consider myself a step-parent.
This pseudo parenting role where I am friend, parent, role model, and sometimes mediator to a broken family can be exhausting. I have spent many hours working to learn new tools and skills to make my family and myself healthier and happier. Here are the three things I practice on a daily basis to not just survive but thrive in this very important role that this life has gifted me!
1. Don’t take things personally. I started with this one because it is the MOST important one for me. Why? Because practicing this is in direct proportion to how connected I feel to my family. “You’re not my mom”. This is a fact. I am not their mom, but the second I take this as a personal attack on my character I go into protection mode, get defensive, and leave little room to express the love I truly have in my heart for these kids. “My mom doesn’t do it like that.” Again, fact. She might do it differently. We are different people. But if I choose to hear this as I am doing something wrong, then I am feel bad about myself for no reason. The more I can practice not taking things personally the happier and more connected I feel.
2. Let go of control. I am a bit of a control-freak and prefer to be in charge of a situation. Control is not in the job description of step-parent. My girls are lucky enough to have two loving and amazing parents; so where does that leave me? It leaves me to practice letting go and loving unconditionally. There are a million little things that happen in a day, week, or month that are just plain not up to me. They are up to mom and dad; and I am neither. I am blessed to have an incredible partner who respects and asks for my opinion often, however, at the end of the day my job is to offer my opinion and then LET IT GO. When I practice this I feel so much lighter, happier, and at ease. It also allows me to just love them. To me, this is THE biggest gift of being a step-parent. I am not the parent. I just get to love them, unconditionally, that’s it!
3. Use healthy boundaries. Last and certainly not least I practice using boundaries. This is not one that comes naturally for me as I am a bit of a people-pleaser and like to take care of everything (there’s that control again!) but knowing when to say no, take time for yourself, and not be so accommodating can be a wonderful thing. When my partner asks if we can switch a Saturday we had to ourselves to have the kids and I was looking forward to spending the day with just him, or their mom needs something dropped off or picked up and it adds stress to my day IT IS OK TO SAY NO. Let me say that again, it is OK to say NO. I check-in with myself on what I need and then I have to ask for it – no one is a mind-reader 😉 (but that’s another post for another day)
The skills and tools I outlined and use in my role as a step-parent can apply to virtually any relationship or family dynamic. The kids, my partner, and I participate with the Kidz Kourse, Heart, Mind and Soul Parenting course, and anything else we can get our hands on to be our best selves, and as a result our best family. I would encourage everyone to do the same!